“I have something funny to show you,” Andie MacDowell says, disappearing out of frame for a minute. She comes back to our Zoom conversation holding an ornate gold statuette: It’s a César, the French equivalent of an Oscar.
“This isn’t me bragging,” she says. “This is me making a point. I got this award in 1997—for my body of work. Think about that. 1997! I was in my [30s]!” The actress, now 64, is getting the last laugh about that hilariously premature lifetime achievement award (for which, she adds, “I’m not ungrateful!”). Last fall, she gave an unforgettable performance in the Netflix series Maid, based on the memoir by Stephanie Land. In it, MacDowell is Paula, the undiagnosed-bipolar mother of domestic-abuse survivor Alex (played by Margaret Qualley, MacDowell’s real-life daughter). Her character is fiery and heartbreaking, with a brilliant silver mane, showcasing a different side of the actress whose ethereal beauty and Southern lilt made her an ’80s and ’90s movie muse. A few months before the series premiered, MacDowell debuted her natural gray hair at Cannes. Audiences have always known her with her iconic chestnut curls, and in Hollywood, where youth is king, it felt like a bold step forward for age positivity.
But perhaps that should be no surprise. Even at the height of her fame, MacDowell seemed more grounded than many in her line of work. In 1991, after starring in Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape and just before Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral, MacDowell moved to Montana. Then, in 1999, she relocated to Asheville, N.C., to raise her two daughters, Margaret and Rainey, and son, Justin, with her former model husband Paul Qualley. Today, after divorcing Qualley, and a brief marriage to businessman Rhett Hartzog, MacDowell is happily living on her own, back in L.A.
We spoke to the likely Emmy nominee and long-time L’Oréal brand ambassador about embracing her grays, teaching her daughters self-care, and hanging with the Euphoria kids.
Marie Claire: You’ve been a working actor for many years, but it seems like there’s an Andie MacDowell renaissance brewing lately—do you feel that?
Andie MacDowell: Work generates work—that’s always been a pattern. But there’s something else—I think me being comfortable with stepping into my age is beneficial. There’s a lot of resistance to that. You don’t know how that’s going to be treated in Hollywood. We’re so used to, as women, being defined by being ageless. We have this instilled fear of getting older.
MC: Even of just saying your age out loud.
AM: Oh, yeah. Which I’ve always done. It makes me uncomfortable trying to pretend that I’m younger. That freaks me out. And being comfortable makes you more confident, too.
MC: Did letting your hair go gray enhance your confidence?
AM: I had been wanting to do it, so COVID did me a favor. I’m not anti-color; you have to do what makes you happy. I just think this is also a lovely option. I now say I have salt-and-pepper hair, and someone just said to me that’s only been used for men, that expression. I was never conscious [women] can’t say we have salt-and-pepper hair!
MC: You’re so associated with the L’Oréal brand—to be so forward with your natural hair color reflects the best of what the beauty industry is doing now.
AM: I agree with you. It’s very present. Allowing women to get older and be happy. And not forcing them to be something that they’re not.
MC: You’ve always seemed to have healthy boundaries—getting out of Hollywood, going to live in Montana.
AM: I think what made me anxious about living [in L.A.] was that nobody talked about anything but work. “What are you doing now, what are you doing next?” It didn’t matter what you did, it was never going to be enough. And I wanted to think about other things. I love my job, but I don’t want it to be all of me.
MC: Maid really started a public conversation about emotional abuse in a way that hasn’t happened before.
AM: There were certain scenes where I thought, This is really good for women to see. It does still happen. It used to be worse. I saw a lot of that behavior growing up.
MC: Were you able to spend time with Margaret during shooting?
AM: Her schedule was horrendous—Fridays she would work all night. I would see her on Sundays. She would come to my house, and I would feed her really healthy food, and she would get a massage. I organized that—I was getting a massage while she ate, and then she would get a massage, and I would do her lines with her.
MC: It’s such a troubling but compelling series; it really stays with you.
AM: I am super sensitive. I’ll feel like [a show or movie] is really happening, I feel like I’m really there. A lot of times I’ll go to sleep right after watching something that’s upset me, and I don’t sleep the same. Last night, I was watching Euphoria. I had just met those kids at the
Saint Laurent [pre-Oscars] party—I sat next to Maude [Apatow], and that gorgeous guy, Dominic Fike, was there. He is charismatic. He sparkles. He does, he sparkles! So I wanted to see [the show]. I binged it for two nights in a row, and I was like, I have to stop.
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MC: Relatedly, your next movie, Red Right Hand, is an Appalachian action-thriller that sounds fairly dark!
AM: [Laughs] That’s an understatement! But there’s a difference between playing it and watching it. It’s a community in the hills of Kentucky, and [my character, Queenpin Big Cat] is the head honcho. She’s been there forever, and it’s like she’s the top mafia boss. Instead of the godfather, she’s the godmother. She’s very poetic. The way she speaks is so beautifully written. It’s hard to find roles like this, you know?
MC: How does it feel, having both daughters in the entertainment business?
AM: I’ve taught them how to take care of themselves. I tried to teach them there are certain limits you can set. You’ve got to do self-care. It’s all about how you eat, protecting your sleep.
MC: Did you always practice self-care, for yourself?
AM: I was never a super party person. I would not have survived that, because I need my sleep. Nine hours. Seven or eight, I can do. I won’t die on six, but I don’t feel good. Anything less than that and I’m useless.
MC: You’ve talked on Instagram about having social anxiety. Has that gotten worse, coming out of the isolation of COVID?
AM: I’m real sensitive, so it just depends on my mood. I went to that party on my own the other night, and I did really well. But you walk in by yourself, it’s tough! You’re talking to someone, and you don’t know if you’re talking too long, you’ve got your own voice going in your head. But the truth is that everybody is doing the same damn thing.
MC: You’ve worked with some famously difficult actors. How did you navigate that?
AM: I have worked with so many difficult men! I’m really good with difficult men. I have great training, because I grew up in the South.
MC: You take a “bless your heart” approach?
AM: [Laughs] I was always really good at not letting it affect me. I let things roll off. Sometimes I watch bad behavior and feel sorry for the person who’s behaving poorly, because they have to be suffering on some level to behave like that. MeToo has been interesting—you do see the difference on set. There are a lot more women.
I had this kind of crazy experience, right after Trump got elected. I was really disturbed that nobody seemed to care about the vagina[-grabbing] comment; I had gotten really sad. I went to do a job, a day’s work, and I had my very first panic attack. I was getting ready to shoot something, and I turn around and it’s, like, a roomful of men. Like, a sea of men. It flashed on something that was personal for me. And I dropped to my knees. I left the room, and went into this fake bathroom on the set, and looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Get your shit together.” It just freaked me out, not seeing any other women. It’s not that I have anything against men. I don’t! I just don’t like big groups of them. Since then, I’ve become very conscious of looking around and finding the women on set. For comfort.
This story appears in the May 2022 issue of Marie Claire.
Styling (Marie Claire): Axelle Cornaille and Agathe Gire / Andie MacDowell Personal Stylist: Marc Eram, A-Frame Agency / Hair: Marcus Francis, TMG / Makeup: Stephen Sollitto / Manicure: Eri Ishizu, Opus Beauty / Thanks to Hotel Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel
Sara Stewart is a journalist who writes about arts and culture for CNN.com, Los Angeles magazine, Alexa magazine, Book&FilmGlobe.com, and the New York Post. Her work has also appeared in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, the Hollywood Reporter, and the Huffington Post. She lives in western Pennsylvania with her husband and hound dog.
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